Source AP ©

Leaders of Nepal's largest political party plans support for abolishing the monarchy

Leaders of Nepal's largest political party plan to announce their support for abolishing the monarchy that has ruled the Himalayan nation for centuries, a key demand of former communist rebels, officials said Tuesday.

The former rebels, known as the Maoists, who waged a decade-long armed rebellion to turn Nepal into a republic before joining the government this year, withdrew from the ruling coalition over the issue last week.

They have also threatened to disrupt an election scheduled for November if the monarchy is not abolished immediately.

The country's largest party, the Nepali Congress, and other parties in the ruling coalition want to wait for a special assembly to be elected in November before deciding the political future of the country.

But Nepali Congress leaders hope that passing a resolution expressing their support for abolishing the throne and declaring Nepal a republic would open a path for the Maoists to return to the governing coalition.

"We all believe that they should rejoin the government and end the crisis," said Mahesh Acharya of the Nepali Congress. "We all favor abolishing the monarchy but we want it done through the right process and peacefully."

Acharya said an announcement could be made Tuesday or Wednesday.

The Maoists ended their decade-long insurgency last year after nearly a month of protests across the country forced King Gyanendra to end his royal dictatorship and restore democracy. The king currently holds no real power.

The Maoists joined the interim government earlier this year, but their withdrawal last week threw the country into a political crisis.

Without the Maoists' support, it is uncertain whether the November vote to elect the special assembly would take place. The assembly is to rewrite the constitution and decide what political system Nepal will follow in the future.

In anticipation of the November election, political leaders came together Tuesday to work out their differences.

Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala's Nepali Congress announced Tuesday that it has reunited with the Nepal Congress Democratic party, a splinter group that left the party in 2002 amid differences between senior leaders.

"This has given us an historic opportunity," said Koirala. "We need to maintain our unity to make a new Nepal."